The future of Province House, PEI.

Author:Crane, Olive
Position:Prince Edward Island - Viewpoint essay
 
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On April 29, 2010, the Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly considered a motion for review of the 1974 federal-provincial agreement regarding the general management of Province House. The following extracts are from debate on the motion by the Leader of the Opposition, the Premier and the Dean of the House.

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Olive Crane (Leader of the Opposition): In recent months I have become aware of a growing concern among Islanders about the management of Province House, where our Island Legislature has been meeting for more than 160 years. I have been hearing this from members of the public, through the media, and indeed from some fellow members of the Legislature, and I must say that these concerns echo my own.

Islanders are raising at least three important issues. First, they are saying that the present balance between federal and provincial functions between Province House as the birthplace of Confederation and Province House as the traditional seat of our Island democracy is skewed too much in favour of the Confederation aspect. This perception is made stronger by the fact that visitors to the building are greeted at the door by officials from Parks Canada.

Islanders are concerned about the general upkeep of the building and the allocation of space. There have been major leaks in the slate roof and Province House requires other repairs both inside and out. Of the total usable space inside the building, 53% is allocated to federal use, much of it devoted to restored heritage areas which are rarely, if ever, entered or used by the members of the general public.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there is a growing body of opinion that we in Prince Edward Island should be doing much more to interpret and celebrate our rich history of representative government going back to the meeting of our first elected assembly in 1773. What better place to do that than in Province House itself, through a dynamic program of displays, lectures, and various public gatherings?

Province House should become a place of a living celebration of our Island democracy. I believe that our provincial government should be assuming significantly greater responsibility for the care and management of Province House, and also a higher profile within the interpretative program of the building itself. Perhaps if I presently review some of our Island's history, the symbolic importance of Province House will become clear. Our Island first became a separate political jurisdiction in 1769, when we were separated from the government of Nova Scotia. Although our population was very small and our political institutions rudimentary, our first general election was held only four years later and our first Legislative Assembly met in 1773.

This places us second only to Nova Scotia as the oldest such body in present day Canada. This is an important legacy, one which we should celebrate much more actively than we do. Over the years the Island Legislature grew in competence and authority but continued to meet in...

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